December Wrapping Up December

 

 

Stenciled, inked, and stamped

 December saw a continuation not only of holiday card making, but other crafts as well. As always, I didn’t get as much done as I’d planned due to a short illness. Doesn’t something always mess up holiday plans? (Note to self: this is why you plan further ahead!)


But, no time for digression, Christmas is coming! Lots of wonderful cards got made thanks to the Cricut. Frustrated with the lack of options on the Cricut site, I searched online for SVG (Scalable Vector Graphics) files for Christmas cards. I was not disappointed! Here is one of my favorite, whimsical cards in a gate-fold style.
Another style of card I like to make uses patterned paper. This design allowed me to incorporate five different specialty papers. A Facebook group I follow had many wonderful examples of cards using patterned papers and unique folded cards. I found plenty of inspiration!

Because I had so many new designs I wanted to try, I ended up with just one card of each type--Cricut, patterned papers, and stamped. No one will be getting mass-produced cards from me this year, nor did they last year.

I made way more cards than I know people to send them to, which begged the question “What to do with extra cards?” My husband came up with a great suggestion to send them to nursing staff at our local hospital. We can drop them off at the visitor information center to be distributed to different floors.

Mint soap
Cards weren’t all that I worked on. I’m really happy with the mint and orange soaps I made for family.
 
In addition to cards and soaps, this year I tried my hand at a soup mix in a jar. The mushrooms I grew and dehydrated over the summer are part of what make this homemade gift special. 
I had one success at making ornaments (I don't sit still long enough for hand-sewing projects). So I'll end this post with a gold star. 😊


 
 




 






 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Time to Make a Mess. . .I Mean Make Cards!

 

The Christmas Card Crafting Kit

It's that magical, wonderful time of year--Christmas card creation! Otherwise known as the season the craft room looks like a blizzard blew through. 

To get started this year, I ordered my first card kit from Stampin' Up. I was impressed with all that came in it. There are enough goodies to make ten cards from two different bases, including decorative envelopes.

Cue the Christmas music and let's get started!

There are several videos that show what you can do with the card kit, but I went straight to an original design. Here, the silver border accents the silver Noel sentiment, and I love the curved front of the card that reveals the stamped row of trees on the inside.


In addition to the kit, there is also the Cricut library of cards. I've already made two cards using a new foiling tool I bought over the summer, and I'm very happy with the results. 

 

How about a pop-up card? Yes, this actually folds flat for mailing. It's another one done with the Cricut. I'm hoping the recipient is as happy with it as I am.

Here is another Cricut design I love. It has multiple layers of snowflake cut-outs that look like decorated cookies. Yumm!


 

Though I've saved so many card designs on my Pinterest board that I still want to use, I also took advantage of a two week online class featuring various techniques for making Christmas cards. Each day had two different instructors showing their card variations along with tips for using the materials.

Here are two techniques I learned in the classes that use an embossing folder with foil and ink blending. 

 

Card making will continue for the next month and I'll share more creations next month. I have another kit on its way and I can't wait to enjoy more time in the craft room!



 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 



My Two Craft Rooms

 

 


 

We recently organized our craft room in preparation for the holiday season. I love that the crafting table now has so much more space for working on projects. All of our inks, papers, stamps, vinyls, and embellishments are together in drawers, on shelves, and in paper cubbies.

Fall is also the time of year I'm busy in the kitchen making jams, applesauce, apple butter, herbal salt, and my husband's favorite, fruit cobblers. I try variations on old recipes and some new to me, making the kitchen what my husband refers to as my tastiest craft room.

I am so happy to grow and cook good food for us. I mentioned to a friend at work that I’d planted cabbage for the first time and he introduced me to the ease of making sauerkraut. Not only did I find out it is extremely simple, but it is a fermented food that has great health benefits.

 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iiNl0Jv6xTw&t=619s

Since my cabbage won’t be ready for six to eight weeks, I purchased a bag of coleslaw mix and added a bit of jalapeño pepper from the garden. This video provided easy instructions, and in just two weeks our first batch was ready. The result was excellent.

Our first batch of sauerkraut!

With the fresh jalapeño, we found out as the video mentions, a little goes a long way! I'd like to try adding a bit of garlic in a future batch, which will be fresh from the garden next year. 

As the garden vegetables produce their final crops for the year I'll be back in the other craft room making holiday cards. The kitchen craft room will be busy as I cook up gifts of soaps, pasta, cookies, and other ideas I gather from that great internet resource--Pinterest!


Herbal salt and apple butter from our garden.


 









 

No Bears Were Seen

 

Photo by Francesco De Tommaso on Unsplash


Leavenworth FB photo
We spent two days out of town a few weeks ago, the first time in two years. Yes, we had a lot of anxiety about breakthrough infection, but most of our activities were outdoors in Leavenworth, WA, a small Bavarian-styled village and our favorite vacation destination.


We were able to enjoy our favorite hike, the Icicle Gorge trail, twelve miles from civilization. “Enjoy” might be a stretch for me since I am deathly afraid of encountering a bear in the woods and had a firm two-handed grip on the bear spray canister the entire 4.16 miles. The winds picked up that day and lodge pole pines knocking against each other make for a horrific sound in the forest!
 

 

https://www.seattlenorthcountry.com/blog/skykomish-river-valley/
We also had a lot of fun during our first time metal detecting along the banks and in the water of local rivers, though we didn’t find anything more valuable than quarters. While trekking to one river where my husband wanted to search, we encountered a lot of bear scat. The animal that left that would easily outweigh both of us, so I offered a compromise. Instead, we searched a river bank at a lower elevation where the temperature was beyond cool and the water was glacial runoff. I shivered, but at least I wasn’t eaten by a bear!

On the way home I was able to pick my fill of elderberries (oh, yes, bears love these, too) that became jam the same afternoon. September kicks off a big preservation month for me and these foraged berries are just the delicious start.

Photo by ceit wonders on Unsplash












 

What's So Funny?


Image from Pinterest

Wikipedia defines wit as "...a form of intelligent humour, the ability to say or write things that are clever and usually funny. Forms of wit include the quip, repartee, and wisecrack."

Who hasn't thought of the perfect quip or comeback a minute, hour, or day after your conversation has ended? There’s a name for that phenomenon -- l’esprit de l’escalier, the spirit of the staircase, which refers to the perfect retort that arises at the wrong time. 

Writers have that gift of time--if the perfect line doesn't come to you in the first draft, you have revisions to hone your prose.

I write to expand my communication capabilities and to stretch my mind. To that end, I plan to take a romantic suspense book I wrote a few years ago, but never published, and revise it as a romantic comedy.

Photo by Ben White on Unsplash

Oh, it will stretch my mind and capabilities! The problem is, no one who knows me would say I’m a “fun” person. I get things done, games aren’t something I enjoy. 

 

 

But I like to find humor in things, make puns, and create fun new words like awesumma (awesome with a Latin twist). Humor and word play are skills I’d like to improve and I expect it to be an enjoyable pursuit.

Humor combines with wit in one of my favorite figures of speech, the paraprosdokian. This is found in a sentence or phrase where the latter part is surprising or unexpected and causes the reader to reframe or reinterpret the first part.

Here are a few examples from Winston Churchill, a master of the paraprosdokian. More examples can be found here.

  • If I agreed with you, we'd both be wrong.
  • I didn't say it was your fault, I said I was blaming you.
  • I used to be indecisive. Now I'm not so sure.

Similarly, authors need to find fresh ways to express familiar phrases. Instead of her heart pounded, readers are more engaged with her heart hammered like a metalsmith on six Red Bulls.

Photo by Giulia Bertelli on Unsplash
Photo by Giulia Bertelli on Unsplash

 



 

 

See the difference? 

So, here's hoping my funny bone isn't broken and I can turn my romantic suspense story into a light-hearted, smile-inducing romance. Reading other romance comedies for research is a lot of fun!

Photo by Cathal Mac an Bheatha on Unsplash



 

Neighborhood Sharing

 

 

https://littlefreelibrary.org/about/

In my neighborhood and many others in Seattle you can find "Little Free Libraries". These often look like tiny houses and usually have two tiers of books inside. Some may be dedicated to children's books, but most have titles for all ages.

The concept is that you take a book and leave a book. There is one on my street and there may be one on yours. You can look up locations at the Little Free Library site linked here.

The Little Free Library site also has plans for creating your own Little Free Library, and a link to register your location.

In addition to occasionally dropping off a book, I recently created bookmarks to add to the Little Free Libraries in my neighborhood. Making the bookmarks gave me a new creative outlet where I can apply all my card making techniques and supplies, and the bookmarks are perfect accompaniments to books.

This first batch is made from DSP--double-sided paper. Each bookmark is vinyl covered for durability, and the decorations on the end of the ribbons are little trinkets I've found while out on walks.

There is a tab on the bookmark that slides over a page to help keep it in place:


My next batch of bookmarks were made from metallic paper and included new tassels that I bought. Each one also has a stamp on the back: a hedgehog, rain, field of flowers, coffee mugs, and a sentiment "Sparkle with all your heart". I love having a new way to share my paper hobby with others.

In addition to Little Free Libraries, our neighborhood also has Little Pantries where people can leave food for those in need. On a walk this week we found a Little Pantry refrigerator stocked with juices, salads, and fruit!

Little Free Libraries feed hungry minds, and Little Pantries feed  hungry bodies. Both are wonderful ways to share with our neighbors.

 

Photo by cyrus gomez on Unsplash

 



 



 

 


Summer is Almost Here!

 

 

Photo by Oliver Hale on Unsplash
 

My creative endeavors this past month have been in the garden, most of that time spent pulling weeds so I could plant more strawberries. The gardening efforts are paying off, and not just in tidier plots.

The herbs are bountiful and I've already dried a few for use this winter. Here are parsley, chives, thyme, hyssop, sage, and several huge borage plants that came up without planting (something known as "volunteers"). The bees love borage, and I love bees.

We'll be eating plenty of white potatoes later this year, along with broccoli, cauliflower, and hot peppers. In the front of this photo are sweet potato plants I'm trying out. This fall I'll be planting asparagus for the first time, and I'm told by many this perennial thrives.


 

We decided to put full covers on the apple trees to prevent apple maggots. The biggest tree had to undergo a lot of trimming to get the mesh netting on. The trees look like ghosts now, especially in the early morning when I do yoga.

 

We'll enjoy a lot of raspberries this year, too. Once again, the plants are overflowing the raised bed we grow them in.

I've enjoyed my early mesclun salad mix greatly and will be adding varieties that are more heat tolerant. Little did I know that someone else would enjoy the spinach and lettuce I started indoors last month. This little lady now gets her own cat grass so she stays out of momma’s salad starts!

I spent some creative time indoors to make a card for a very special 90th birthday. It also celebrates the summer season that is just about to begin.



Getting to Know My Neighbors


 

Now that I've been working at home for over 400 days, I've really gotten to know my neighbors--the backyard neighborhood life, that is.

The squirrels have become so accustomed to having a little dish of shelled peanuts that I find them waiting at the patio door as soon as I finish my morning yoga. They have even begun taking peanuts in the shell from my hand when I hold them out.

As I was typing an email for work one morning I heard scratching at the patio door and found a furry little customer waiting, or rather, demanding more nuts. If I installed a little doorbell I wonder if I could get them to ring when they are hungry.😀

In addition to the usual three squirrels who have learned there are plenty of nuts to go around, I've seen birds I never knew about. The Steller's Jays also like the bowl of peanuts. 



Townsend's warbler
Other birds I've seen are the spotted towhee, Townsend's Warbler, nut hatch, bush tit, house wren, variegated thrush, flicker, gold finch, and junco. And hummingbirds enjoy the flowering red currant in the backyard.

Pine siskin
The pine siskin was responsible for a terrible salmonella outbreak among birds this spring in Seattle and people were asked to take down bird feeders for three weeks to stop the spread. I missed my feathered friends, but it didn't take them long to return once the seeds were back.

Black-capped chickadees are my favorite and there are several who have also learned about the peanut bowl. I've seen people feed them out of hand, but haven't been able to do this myself. 

With the warmer weather we've had I've started putting out water for the critters to drink. It didn't take the chickadees long to discover the dish is perfect for a little bath, and the squirrels were drinking by the afternoon.

The backyard visitors I'm not so keen on are the raccoons. They are often vicious, especially if cornered or with young ones. Other backyard friends I am happy to have visit are the rabbits. They are so cute I'll happily share my spinach and strawberries with them.



 

 




'Shroomin'!

 

 

 

Stropharia rugosoannulata photo from wikimedia

 

It would appear that I have a wilted thumb when it comes to growing peas, carrots, beets, or many other vegetables. But potatoes and tomatoes manage to survive, and herbs thrive. While pondering just how many Yukon golds and cherry tomatoes to put in the ground, my husband asked why not try mushrooms?

A day earlier I happened to have watched a video on growing wine cap mushrooms and it seemed easy. The video creator happily wandered through his backyard garden cutting wine cap mushrooms from under leaves and thanking his fungi for providing nutritious food.

What better place to grow fungus than in the Pacific Northwet? After watching a few more videos I sent away for my wine cap

mushroom kit. A few days after it arrived, I got the first bale of straw I’ve ever purchased, too. Straw is necessary to layer with forest duff (decaying vegetable matter covering the ground under trees) to grow the wine caps. Straw is also great for covering the potatoes as they grow.

The straw and duff are laid down in what is called the "lasagna method", and then the layers need to be well-watered. After a thorough soaking, the 15 spawn pegs we received in our mushroom kit were pushed into the layers of straw and duff.

Now we just need to keep everything wet, and with a 100% chance of rain the following day, we picked the perfect Saturday for starting our wine cap mushrooms!



While researching how to grow mushrooms I also learned of the great health benefits many varieties have. Mushrooms such as lion's mane, reishi, maitake, shiitake, and turkey tail protect your brain as you age, help your memory, provide antioxidants, and some even have cancer-fighting properties.


In two to three months I'm looking forward to a crop of wine cap mushrooms popping up in the backyard garden, and I'm hoping the squirrels leave some for us!

 



 










All Wound up with Herbs

  Source Hours after pulling out several feet of the "weed" above I learned it is one of the medicinal plants I should be harvesti...